Unlike the turbulent 1970s she lives in, Polly Wainwright is determined to be calm, competent, and professional. She’s got a boyfriend making a name for himself as a war correspondent in Vietnam, close friends, and a steady (albeit boring) job in the Illustration Department at Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Chicago location. But once upon a time Polly also had dreams, and, when her steady (and boring) life begins to implode, she finds herself returning to what has gone unfulfilled in Chicago photographer and novelist Lynn Sloan’s vivid, elegant novel Midstream (Fomite Press).
Polly is herself a fascinating heroine, sometimes deeply frustrating, sometimes inspiring, always intensely believable. At one point, as her own life starts to unravel and her boss’s
privileged niece starts her own ascent in England, Polly has the sort of moment many of us have probably shared, as Sloan writes: “She, Polly Wainwright from Peoria, Illinois, would make a contribution to the world. She, Polly, would preserve the wisdom of the elders that was slipping away in the film world. She, Polly Wainwright, would make a difference. She, Polly, would not be just like everyone else.” That she, like almost everyone else (except the feminists and the anti-war protestors), is slipping into averageness and obscurity, facing insecurity and low pay, makes her desperation more touching—and, in truth, sets the stage for her own forward propulsion.